Turkey’s parliament on March 30 voted through a bill to allow Finland to join Nato as the defence alliance’s 31st member.
The move removed the last obstacle to Helsinki joining the Western transatlantic bloc. All existing Nato members have now ratified Finland’s membership application. Hungary earlier this week became the last but one to deliver ratification.
As the Ukraine war continues to rage, Turkey and Hungary are, however, yet to remove their barriers to an application to join Nato submitted by Finland’s neighbour, Sweden. There are suspicions that the populist governments of Ankara and Budapest are coordinating their continued resistance to the Swedish bid. Any Nato expansion needs the backing of all its members.
Prior to early March, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was objecting to Nato membership for both Finland and Sweden on the basis that they were yet to sufficiently comply with requests for a crackdown on Kurdish and Gulenist groups and individuals regarded by Ankara as militants and terrorists who pose a threat to Turkey. Erdogan also asked the two Nordic countries to free up defence exports to Turkey that were blocked after a Turkish incursion into Syria. For the Turks, those matters still apply in relation to Sweden, while Hungary says it has unresolved grievances over positions Stockholm has taken on the country’s Orban administration.
Turkey is getting set for parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14, meaning that the question of whether or not to ratify Sweden’s application to join Nato is now unlikely to be dealt with by the Turkish legislature until some time after polling day.
Disputes over anti-Erdogan street protests mounted by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm have made that extended scenario even more likely.
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has lately urged Turkey and Hungary to go ahead and ratify both the Swedish and Finnish applications. He will soon formally invite Finland to join Nato following the Hungarian and Turkish ratifications.
The US and other Nato allies would like the two Nordic countries to become members of the defence bloc at a Nato summit due to be held on July 11 in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius.
In a statement following the Turkish vote, the government of Finland, which has an 1,340-kilometre (832-mile) border with Russia and is known for armed forces equipped with powerful artillery, said joining the alliance would strengthen the country's security, and improve stability and security in the region.
"As allies, we will give and receive security. We will defend each other. Finland stands with Sweden now and in the future and supports its application," Prime Minister Sanna Marin wrote on Twitter.
Russia's foreign ministry earlier condemned Finland's decision to join Nato, saying it was ill-considered and founded on Russophobic hysteria.
A founding principle of Nato is collective defence—an attack on one member nation is treated as an attack on all members.